Taking The 100 Thing Challenge.

I recently finished the book The 100 Thing Challenge in which it’s author, Dave Bruno, attempts to live for a year with only 100 personal items. He did this in response his  fatigue with what he called ‘American Style Consumerisim‘ and in an effort to simplify his life and make more room for the important things. I highly recommend you read the book, whether you opt to take the challenge or not, as it has some great insights in it with regards to why and how we buy and collect ‘stuff’.

I’ve decided to take up this challenge myself, for better or worse and have set a tentative date of May 1st as the point of no return. As such I’ll be spending the winter ‘clearing the baffles’ so to speak and whittling down my possessions to my 100 (or dare I say sub-100?) list. I’ll be trying to document some of the process here and in future blog entires if you wanna read along. So a heads up: Don’t buy me anything.

Coming up with the list does pose some unique conundrums – some of which Dave provides his own solutions for in the book. One of the tenements of the Challenge is that it is and will be different for everyone, there are no steadfast rules. As such I’ve a few issues to work out myself.

Clothes

In his  book, Dave talks about limiting your clothes and counts each item of clothing as one item on the list. While I’d like to say I could do that, I don’t know if it’s as simple. For one, I live in an area of the world with a much different climate than him (San Diego vs, Fredericton, New Brunswick) and bottom line, I have seasonal requirements for more clothing items. Think LAYERS people, among other things. I’m not sure how I’m going to address this for the list yet. Currently I’m leaning towards counting categories or groups of clothes as one thing, i.e. ‘t-shirts’, ‘pants’, ‘hats and gloves’, etc. I do want to try and get rid of some of my clothes. I mean I have stuff in my closet that I never wear or I’m saving for one day, which I know will never come.

Bike Stuff

I have a lot of bike stuff. Both bikes and accessories. I’ve never had much guilt about it as I ride my bikes to work at least 50% of the time each year, even in lousy weather. My bikes aren’t super top of the line, but I have made some decent upgrades and especially when it comes to bike specific clothing/gear, I have in some cases bought quality stuff as it makes commuting in rain/sleet/snow that much more possible. I always have justified the expense of gear with the fact that it enables me to do more of something that is good for myself, the planet, and the pocketbook. That said I do plan to cull some stuff from the bike herd. I have a pretty good stockpile of ‘spare parts’ which I probably will never need and even if I do need replacements these are outdated. I hope to find some way to get rid of these without just trashing them.

This leaves me with my question of how this stuff relates to my 100 Things list. I feel that it’s important that I include it somehow and not exclude it offhand. For the clothes/gear, I’m leaning towards using the same method I mentioned above with regular clothes. That seems reasonable. With the bikes, well I’m thinking, realistically, I should count each bike as one ‘thing’. I mean, really I can only ride one at a time so any more than that are superfluous. If I’m going to keep more than one, I think I have to be willing to suck it up and count each one towards my 100 Thing list. I will probably include spare parts I do end up keeping for each bike as part of the bike, so essentially one ‘thing’ = bike and spare parts. We’ll see how it goes.

Books

Dave talks about this in his book and his final solution to the problem was to simply say he had one ‘library’ that encompassed his books. The ‘library’ counted as one ‘thing’. I’m ok with that. I don’t have a lot of books, but I have some that I’m fond of, and some I’ve even worked on or designed, so I’ll be keeping them. I still think there’s some that could go, and will, but I’ll be sticking with his idea of one ‘library’ counting as a thing.

CDs

I’ve got at least 900 CDs. Up until about a month ago, they’d been in boxes in the basement for the better part of 2 years. By example that would mean that really, according to the 100 Thing Challenge, I don’t really need ’em and they should go. Part of the reason they were in boxes is simply because I had no logical place to store them while I refinished my basement. But as time passed, I’d kinda forgotten about them. I would think about them sometimes, on several occasions even digging into boxes to pull out specific ones to burn to my iTunes library, but the simple fact is that the bulk of my music (all 140GB of it) now resides on my computer and I don’t see any going back. I’ve talked from time to time with Lyn about taking the CDs to the used CD joint and just making a few bucks (prolly far few than I think they’re emotionally worth, sniff, sniff) but then I’d be done with it.

As a designer, I’ve got a huge attachment to the album art, sleeves, liner notes, and packaging that these represent. The physical object is hard to let go of, even I really have no need of them anymore. Several times I’ve said to myself that I’d get rid of them once I’d burned them all to my computer but the reality is that not only would that take forever, it would eat up huge volumes of hard drive space I don’t have. I’d have to buy an external drive to hold it all and it seems I’d be just setting myself up for a huge heartbreak when that drive eventually takes a huge shit like they all eventually do. (One thing working on computers all my life has taught me is that no information stored anywhere is permanent, it can go away in the blink of an eye and we should all accept this fact, it makes things easier.)

Right now, my current frame of mind is to go through them, cull the really meaningful and/or out-of-print ones and either keep those or burn ’em to the Mac and sell/dump the rest. We’ll see what happens. I’ve thought about applying the ‘book library’ idea here, and calling this ‘one music library’, but the difference is, I can easily convert these physical CDs to digital files and save the space/clutter. To do that with books I’d have to actually re-buy the books. I’m not sure I’m down with the ‘audio library’ idea. Like I said, we’ll see.

One idea I am toying with is if I do ditch all the CDs, trying to do something with the artwork from inside them, some sort of mural or something. I dunno. Haven’t fully flushed it out yet. I have some that are autographed as well and thought those would be kinda cool if framed nice.

Tools/Lawn and Garden

Although Dave talks about ditching his fine woodworking tools and streamlining his toolkit down to a few essential tools, I’m not gonna go that route. I don’t harbor any fantasies of ever being a fine woodworker, but what I do have is an hyperactive DIY drive. Being that we live in a pretty rural area and in addition to getting extreme satisfaction from doing stuff on/around the property myself, it saves money, I try to do as much home maintenance/renovation as possible myself. (I’m currently in the midst of an – ahem – 2 year basement refinish that is about 50% done. Hey, I work on it when I can.) I’ve accrued a pretty good arsenal of tools, but I’m also adamant about maintaining them properly so hopefully they will last indefinitely. Self-sustainablity and resourcefulness, I think Dave would agree, are both 100 Thing Challenge compliant. And even if he doesn’t, as he says so many times in the book, this is my list, not his.

For the above reasons, as well as the fact that all of the stuff is used for the benefit of everyone who lives here not just me, I’ve decided to not count tools, hardware and lawn and garden stuff (snowblower, lawnmower, etc) in my 100 Things list. I consider that stuff ‘household’ goods.

So the whittling down will commence. I’ll post up my list and revisions of it leading up to my May 1st date once I have it going. Stay tuned.

Join the Conversation

2 Comments

  1. Very interesting idea,I think I’d like to pick up that book. My husband would be perfect at this challenge, he is the polar opposite of a hoarder, I’m not sure he has a cumulative 100 anything! It’s a topic that comes up often in our house because of this…the clothes is my biggest downfall. Now I am going to be thinking about my own version of this challenge. Thanks for the food for thought and a great read!

    1. Yah, when you first start to wade in, it’s a bit tricky trying to decipher what’s a ‘thing’ and what isn’t and whether it’s ‘yours’ or community property. I don’t expect my wife and kids to participate, it’s not that kind of thing. So that’s the phase I’m at now. When I told my wife I was gonna do this she became really concerned with what I was going to get rid of when really, it probably won’t effect her at all. It’s about my own stuff. That and it’s also shining a light on the things you buy and the decisions that influence them. Thanks for reading/commenting and good luck!

Leave a comment

Leave a Reply